As COVID-19 restrictions were about to be lifted, Britons had become slightly more optimistic for the future than they were a year ago. However, many concerns remain – particularly over the spread of another variant, and the economy going into recession (although few prioritise economic concerns over people’s health).
Looking to the future, Britons have become more hopeful since last year. Almost half (47%, up from 39% last year) believe Britain will be stronger when it gets through the pandemic, even though it will be tough. However, a sizeable minority are less optimistic, 37% say the pandemic will make Britain weaker for years to come (although this is down from 46% last year).
Top concerns for the rest of the year include the spread of a new vaccine-resistant variant (80%) and another wave of cases (79%), including around half who are very concerned. Around three-quarters (76%) are worried about the economy going into recession while 7 in 10 (69%) are concerned about there being another lockdown. Just over half (55%) are anxious about restrictions, such as mask-wearing and social distancing, coming back.
Reflecting this range of concerns, 4 in 10 (42%) say the Government should continue to prioritise people’s health over the economic health by having more restrictions if the virus continues to spread, while 15% prioritise reducing restrictions to help the economy, and another 4 in 10 (38%, up from 32% in November) believing the two concerns should be given equal weight. The pattern of opinion is broadly the same if people are asked what happens if the virus continues to spread after all adults have been offered a second dose of the vaccine.
Comparing 5 potential effects of the virus on the country, Britons are most likely to identify increased deaths as a direct result of catching COVID-19 as the most serious (34%). A quarter (25%) view increased deaths due to fewer healthcare resources to treat and identify medical conditions other than the coronavirus as the most serious issue facing the country while 16% name the effect the virus will have on the economy and jobs. Thirteen per cent say the effect the virus will have on mental health issue is a key issue for the country while 7% name the effect on children and education. Compared with July last year, there has been a small increase placed in the emphasis on indirect deaths due to healthcare resources being prioritised for COVID-19, and on mental health issues, and slightly less emphasis given to direct deaths and the economy.
Gideon Skinner, Head of Political Research at Ipsos, said:
Compared with where we were a year ago, and with the success of the vaccine programme, Britons have become a bit more hopeful that the country will be able to recover when it gets through the pandemic. However, many people are still wary, particularly about the chances of another variant leading to another wave of cases, although worries about the economy are not far behind, so this optimism is fragile at best.
- Ipsos interviewed a representative online sample of 1,005 British adults aged 18-75 between 16th-18th July 2021. Data are weighted to match the profile of the population. All polls are subject to a wide range of potential sources of error.
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